Parliament and the Slave Trade

'Parliament and the British Slave Trade 1600 - 1807' (www.parliament.uk/slavetrade) is a new website from the Parliamentary Archives, using original source material, interwoven with narrative from expert historians, to tell the story of Parliament's complex relationship with the British slave trade. The website enables visitors, anywhere in the world, to examine key documents, engage with the issues and voice their views.

As well as providing access to one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever passed, the 1807 Act to Abolish the British Slave Trade, the website also explores Parliament's role in shaping the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. It captures the passionate debates and battles for ideas that raged throughout this period. Visitors can explore the evidence, on both sides of the slave trade debate, gathered by Parliament during this time.

Some of the most interesting documents on the website include: a certificate from 1681, signed by the Lord Great Chamberlain which permits tea, coffee and (hot) chocolate making in a part of the Palace of Westminster, a cartoon by James Gillray from1792 satirizing the boycott of sugar by the Royal Household, and, a letter signed by Africans working at Cape Coast Castle in 1749 in support of the Governor.

The website also examines the role the public campaign played in bringing about the Act to abolish the British slave trade. It was one of the first, and most successful, public campaigns in history, and featured large scale petitioning of Parliament. Visitors to the website will be able to search for ancestors on digitised and transcribed petitions, such as that from Manchester in 1806.

The site has also been designed with learning in mind. Teachers will find ideas for lessons (KS3/KS4) and plenty of historical source material, as well as a community area for creating interactive lesson resources.

Much of the material on the website, including the 1807 Act, can be seen free of charge at 'The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People' exhibition in Westminster Hall from 23 May to 23 September 2007.

Article taken from the website of the Federation of Family History Societies